Alliance with Caixa Economica and HFHI’s new strategic vision inspire HFH Brazil to think big -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Alliance with Caixa Economica and HFHI’s new strategic vision inspire HFH Brazil to think big

By Manuel Mancuello

A recent alliance between Habitat for Humanity and Caixa Econômica Federal,[1] the Brazilian government’s main division for social policies, will bring about important housing solutions in coming years.

“With Habitat Brazil’s adequate structure and the Caixa alliance, we will be able to build 5,000 housing solutions each year,” says Ademar Marques, director of HFH Brazil.

The alliance of technical cooperation will allow Habitat, with Caixa, to implement social housing policies.

Along with a government subsidy, families will receive credits for the resources necessary to solve their housing needs. But in order to obtain this aid, they must find a guarantee mechanism, such as a mortgage.

Opportunities for the poorest of the poor

Since the majority of families cannot provide guarantees for a loan, Habitat’s role lies in offering them the guarantee required to access the credits and subsidy. The guarantee is a preliminary deposit that will assure families’ credit costs.

“This deposit represents about 20 percent of the total cost of the house. This means that with the same resources we previously used to build 100 houses, through this alliance, today we can contribute to the construction of 400 to 500 houses,” estimates Rodolfo Ramírez, director of Habitat’s South American division.

“We will offer more opportunities for the obtainment of a decent house at a lower cost, and the return of the loans will be in a shorter time period,” adds Marques.
According to HFH Brazil’s director, the poor do not have the possibility of accessing traditional housing loans.

“This partnership will make it possible to assist the poorest of the poor. If the total cost of a house is 10,000 reais (US$4,600), the family will return barely 2,000 reais (US$920). They will pay a small loan and in less time,” he says.

As families pay their loans, the Caxia Econômica will return the deposits so that HFH Brazil can reuse them and create more opportunities.

This success is an important step toward accomplishing Goal 1 of HFHI’s 2007-2011 strategic plan, which seeks to duplicate in the next five years the number of housing opportunities at a reasonable cost.

Opportunities for other NGOs

This important accomplishment makes HFH Brazil the first NGO to work jointly with Caixa.

“Habitat is opening doors so that in the future other NGOs can participate, but with a more flexible system,” says Marques.

Habitat continues dialoguing with Caixa so that the federal bank will modify its traditional criteria and create relevant changes that will facilitate more opportunities for NGOs and families in need.

Some of these changes are already in sight.

“Before, only families could offer the guarantee deposit. As a result, thousands of families could not access housing loans and subsidies. Today, Habitat can do it instead of the families, and in the future, there will be other NGOs involved,” explains Marques.

Another important accomplishment is the reduction of interest. Before, Caixa charged 4 percent (2.5 percent for profit and 1.5 percent for administrative costs), the same as the market price. For low-income families, this percentage was too high. After conversations with Caixa, it decided to lower the percentage to 2.5 percent (1.5 percent for profit and 1 percent for administrative costs).

The micro-credits that Caixa previously offered did not have a subsidy. Today, these micro-credits include subsidies. Habitat’s efforts favor thousands of families that today and in the future will be able to access these credits.

Previous steps

For Rodolfo Ramírez, “this alliance is the result of a series of strategic actions by Habitat Brazil.”

One of the first steps taken was to participate and be a part of the existing network of national and local organizations in favor of families without a decent house.

This made it possible for Habitat Brazil to represent the network’s member organizations at the National Conference of Cities, where public housing policies are discussed and more democratic urban development is sought to reduce the country’s social inequality.

Recently, HFH Brazil participated in the redesign of norms that regulate law 460 that guarantees the right to housing. A few modifications were necessary in order to make it applicable to helping the poorest of the poor.

“Housing is established as a basic human right in Brazil’s constitution,” explains Ramírez. “As a result, it is not controlled by the laws of the market, as a product or an object, rather as a basic human right. Our participation in changing some of the law’s articles is vital so that this right can become a reality.”

Necessary changes

To reach this point, important changes were necessary, including an internal restructuring of the organization.

“One of the changes made was in the organizational model, by way of directing activities to strengthening existing local organizations and not creating new ones (committees and affiliates), as we have traditionally done,” explains Ramírez.

Today, HFH Brazil gives recognition to existing community organizations and works on strengthening them, becoming promoters of the community’s own development.

Victor Hugo Cusicanqui, specialist in organizational development, identifies another change: “Our products and services were redesigned and changed. We no longer only offer an entire house through a long-term loan. Today, we also offer families loans for additions and improvements to their houses and productive micro-credits.”

The Chico Mendez project is proof of these changes. HFH Brazil started a project in the Chico Mendez community, in Recife, with new services: micro-credits for additions and improvements in house construction, and micro-credits for the development of small productive businesses for families.

“It is our interest that housing be recognized as a human right and become a reality for thousands and thousands of Brazilians,” assures Ramírez.

For more information, contact Ademar Marques, director of HFH Brazil, at ade.marques@habitatbrasil.org.br.

Manuel Mancuello is a writer for HFH in Latin America and the Caribbean.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] La Caixa Econômica Federal (http://www.caixa.gov.br) is the federal government’s main division for social policies. It prioritizes the housing sector, basic hygiene, infrastructure and loan services. It exercises a fundamental role in the promotion of urban development and social justice in the country and contributes to a better quality of life, specifically within low-income populations. Toward the end of 2004, its commercial portfolio held more than 32 million deposit and basic accounts. Its database is capable of presenting socioeconomic profiles for approximately 53.5 million people below the poverty line.